Term Paper, 2007
18 Pages, Grade: 2
2 Language Variation in PDE
2.1 The Development of Different Varieties of English
2.2.1 Examples of Registers
3 Online Communication
3.2 Technologies for Online Communication
3.2.3 Newsgroups, Mailing Lists, and Forums
4 A New English
4.1 Linguistic Features of Online Communication
4.2 Changes in Every-Day-Language
“All living systems change, and languages are no exception.” (Baron 2000:253) English has always changed over time due to different kinds of influences. There were several historical incidents which determined its development. The emergence of pidgins and creoles is also responsible for changes of languages in general (Baron 2000:254f). But what consequences will the impact of the Internet on language have? Some people admit that the progress in technology can be very advantageous, but they worry about the quality of language and argue that its development brings about bad effects. Even Jacques Chirac, the former President of France, called online communication “a major risk for humanity” (Crystal 2001:1).
This paper will focus on the linguistic development of the English language, and try to find out whether the effect of the Internet plays a role. If so, what changes can we consider and how do they emerge?
First, an overview of the reasons for the development of languages will introduce the topic. The term registers will be defined in order to explain the different varieties of English.
We will then consider the different situations of language use in online communication. This paper will present the different technologies for online communication such as e-mail and chat and illustrate the use of language within them. Several examples will illustrate the main differences between traditional written language and language used on the Internet.
Finally, a conclusion will sum up the main results and find out whether online communication brings about a New English.
There are numerous varieties of Present Day English spoken worldwide. Languages in general are continuously developing. This is due to many different influences.
Linguists have long since studied the use of the English language in different contexts and social groups. One aspect is the investigation of regional variation, which is referred to as dialectology. Besides that, further variations of English occur between different social circumstances. The study of the second type of variation is called sociolinguistics. William Labov is one of the most famous linguists investigating varieties of English. According to his research of the 1960s, in which he compared the pronunciation of English words by a large number of people, one can notice differences in the way certain phonemes are pronounced due to the diverse social settings of the speakers. He concluded that people from higher social communities pronounce `r` more often, and that in general, the pronunciation of `r` occurs more often in formal speech. As a result, one can state that the use of language depends on the one hand on the social background of the speaker and on the other hand on the specific context.
Another factor of the various uses of English is the fact that nowadays, this language is used all over the world and not only by native speakers. A range of influences play a role in the development towards a New English. First, there is the high reputation of English as a generally accepted language for economic, cultural and educational purposes. Moreover, there is the fast development of communication technologies such as e-mail and chat. This leads to a continuous modification of the English language [INT9].
The various uses of language in different communities are termed registers. The same person can trace back to a series of variations and may pronounce a word correctly and clearly according to the standard rules of English in formal environments, while using the short form of the word in a more informal social setting. The content of the conversation, the speakers and their relationship to one another, as well as the way of communication influence register. Not only phonology, but also all other subfields of linguistics are performed differently from one variety to the other. For example, there are distinct morphological realizations of elements or even particular lexical terms that are not used equally in each variety [INT3].
One may distinguish between five main registers: Frozen registers occur in written language, where the statements are fixed and permanent such as excerpts from the bible. Formal or academic registers are used in public and for educational purposes by teachers and professors. It includes a specific vocabulary, and precise and technical descriptions. People who need help or advice from superior persons use consultative registers. Casual registers are spoken by groups of friends in informal, spontaneous circumstances. Intimate registers are used for private, non-public purposes by people who have a love or sexual relationship [INT10].
Examples of registers are baby-talk (i.e. the way adults talk to young children), and aviation English. The latter is an artificial language, developed for precise purposes and a specific group. As pilots all over the world work internationally and have to communicate with many other pilots or air traffic controllers (ATCs) from different countries, it is advantageous to establish a generally accepted language which can be understood by everyone of this group. Such a language may help to avoid accidents and catastrophes which happen due to misunderstandings. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has thus decided on a standardized aviation language. They chose English as the basis for political and economic reasons. The ICAO-phraseology provides the rules and vocabulary relevant for the communication between pilots and ATCs. It has become obligatory for a majority of pilots, especially for those from Europe. All utterances have only one meaning in order to avoid ambiguity. The vocabulary has been chosen taking co-occurring, typical difficulties of non-native speakers of English into consideration. Furthermore, the pronunciation of certain words is supposed to be different from natural English to make the articulation easier, e. g: three has to be pronounced as /tri:/. Besides that, syntax is left out as often as possible, and the sentences are kept short. Normally, pilots do not have much time for conversations, the radio signal is not perfectly clear sometimes, and the speakers often lack good language skills. That is why it is necessary to keep the language used in a cockpit very simple.
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